On 11 September 1883, EXPLORER (2-mast wooden schooner, 48 foot, 33 gross tons, built in 1866, at Chatham, Ontario) struck rocks and went down on Stokes Bay on the outside of the Bruce Peninsula. Her crew was visible from shore clinging to the wreck until the vessel broke up. All five were lost.
MARINE ITEMS. – The yacht EXPLORER was wrecked at Cove Island, in Georgian
Bay on the 11th ult. Two lives were lost.
Erie Daily Dispatch
Saturday, November 30, 1867
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LOSS OF THE ” EXPLORER.” TWO LIVES LOST
The Schooner EXPLORER, owned by Mr. Hert (sp?), of Chatham, was capsized on Middle Rock, near Yeo Island, Lake Huron, and sad to say two men, named respectively Wm. Starnes and Jack —-, single men, both lost their lives, the Master, Waddel, alone reaching the shore after the accident. The vessel was about half laden with supplies for a saw mill on Georgian Bay, and merchandise for a trading adventure, sailed from St. Clair Rapids on the 8th inst., steering for the Detour Passage to Bruce Mines where it was intended to call. A violent gale blew without intermission from that time till the morning of the 11th, during which the fore-boom had been carried away and the vessel repeatedly “hove
to.” On the 11th, she was headed for the channel leading to Georgian Bay, but before reaching Owen Sound Channel, several snow squalls had whitened all the shore and darkness setting in before the passage could be made, the vessel was hauled up for the ship channel, where she got into a patch of that shoal water and the sea broke so heavily she was thrown on her beam ends, and the cargo shifted to port, causing her to drag along, with her lee rail under water in a dangerous position. The bulkhead between the cabin and hold was at once chopped out to admit a man going through. One hand went in with a lantern and reported load shifted under fore-hatch and other places, but that it could be re-trimmed
without much trouble if the vessel could be kept steady fifteen minutes. Both hands then went into the hold taking a hand spike, and leaving another hand with the master at the wheel, to signal on the deck in case of danger. One or two signals on fancied dangers were made, and the men finally went below, saying “five minutes would complete the job”. Almost immediately the proximity of shoal water was apparent from the roar of heavy breakers. One huge sea was making up to windward when the vessel was kept away and received it under the stern, which it lifted almost perpendicularly up, breaking about
amidships, filling all the decks up with water, rushing the vessel forward and driving her against the rocks, which she struck with such force with her forefoot or Bowsprit, that her whole cargo fell forward with a crash into her bow, doubtless crushing the two men below, to death instantly. Her sails gibed at the same time, the main-boom tearing away from the blocks, and going adrift. The next sea was preparing to break astern, the master abandoned the wheel and sprang into the main rigging – the sea broke over the vessel eight or ten feet
deep, capsizing her clear over, mastheads under water, tearing off cabin doors, and throwing her stern around, head to sea; successive breakers dashing against her, washed her off the rocks into deep water, where her bow sank down to an angle of about 60 degrees, leaving her stern floating about five or six feet out of the water. The breakers had thrown the yawl boat on top of the cabin upside down, and when the vessel began to drift stern foremost, the waves washed her off again. The master clung to the stern of the vessel from the time she
capsized (about 7 or 6 p.m.) till noon the next day; during which interval her succeeded in clearing the boat off the davits, and in bailing her out with the ships bucket, which, with an oar and pike pole, were lashed to the same rigging he had sought safety in.
The wind having changed to N.W. and blowing towards Cabot’s Head, the master left the vessel and succeeded in reaching the shore. From Cabot’s Head the master worked his way around, with the yawl boat and an oar all round the coast in a famished condition, having only a few fish to exist on, to Colpoy’s Bay, which he reached on Monday last, the 25th. inst., in such an exhausted state that assistance was required to enable him to be removed from the boat to the Tavern. Two men were sent from Colpoy’s Bay to look for the vessel, which it was supposed, might have drifted ashore near Lion’s Head in Dwyer Bay. — Toronto Globe n. d.
Owen Sound Comet
Friday, December 6, 1867
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A MYSTERY CLEARED UP.
About fifteen years ago Captain Waddell, of Chatham was sailing a small two masted schooner, EXPLORER, in to Tobermorey Bay, with a cargo of whiskey, pork, and mill castings. The crew consisted of the captain and two sailors. The EXPLORER never reached her destination, and was supposed to be lost with all hands. Subsequently the Captain turned up and reported that the vessel had been lost on the reef near Bear and Flower Pot Islands, and that the two sailors had both gone down with her, while he alone escaped. The vessel was insured and the Captain got the insurance money.
The next season Captain Waddell was drowned on a trip in a small boat to Flower Pot Island, where he went, it is alleged, for the purpose of taking away the cargo of the EXPLORER, the theory being that he had landed the cargo and afterwards scuttled the ship.
Suspicions of foul play were rife at the time, but the vessel could not be found, and the interest in the matter died away. Five or Six years ago the EXPLORER was discovered by Chas. Earle, of Tobermorey in the bay, in about seventeen fathoms of water, several miles from the reef alluded to, but nothing was done to raise her until recently, when the Port Huron, Wrecking Company sent a wrecking tug, and raised her and towed her into Tobermorey Bay, where she now floats.
A diver who descended into the vessel where she lay before she was moved states that she lay on her bean ends and he could not get into the cabin, but after she was righted, he went down a second time and found the cabin door had opened and he saw a corpse of a
man upright in the cabin. After the schooner was towed to shallow water the body could not be found, and it is supposed that the motion of towing had caused it to float away from the wreck.
The suspicions of the cause of the loss of the ship were fully confirmed by the discovery that there are thirteen two-inch auger holes in her bottom, and from eight to ten tons of stones, but not a particle of cargo.
The wrecking tug proceeds next to the Western Islands, where it is intended to raise the ‘FOREST KING’ which sank in a snow storm in the month of November about eight years ago. She was a three master, and loaded with coal.
Friday, June 30, 1882
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LOSS OF THE EXPLORER
Other Side Of The Sensational Narrative
Ever since the raising of the wreck of the lost EXPLORER, a story has being going the rounds of the press, in some cases receiving fresh additions from the recording scribes, reflecting most severely on the memory of the late Captain Waddell, and causing his family no little personal anguish. From competent authority we gather the following as the true history of the vessel and its wreck:–
The schooner was built by the late John Waddell in 1866 for a yacht, and was capable of carrying some 2,500 bushels of grain in her hold; she cost about $5,000. In the Fall of 1869 he loaded her for the Georgian Bay, not with “Whiskey” or “goods valued at “$18,000 ” or capable of being insured at such a figure, but with goods for Collins’ lnlet, where he had a large mill, then and now known as “Waddell’s Mills. The goods were valued at $2,000, and vouched for by respectable firms, some of whom are now in existence and were insured for the sum of $1,500 and the hull for $2,000.
There was nothing in the condition or position of the vessel at the time of her raising that would contradict the affidavit of Mr. Waddell, as filed with the company who had the insurance on the hull.
Mr. Waddell’s statement was that, feeling the vessel getting lower in the water, he called to the men who were below, but getting no response he jumped into the yawl boat and cut her adrift. When last he saw the schooner she was drifting in the direction where found. He was delayed by storm for five or six days before reaching Owen Sound, the nearest inhabited place, and as of course he left the schooner without anything, he was in a pitiable state he. he reached the Sound, being in bed delirious for two weeks after his arrival,
We have ourselves examined the bottom of the vessel for auger holes or signs where some had been plugged up, but could find none. There were no skeletons found in the vessel when raised, as reported. The door of the cabin was pulled off by a vessel grappling for the wreck, together with part of the cabin, that ten men could not move with brute force,
The exact position of the vessel was not found for seven or eight years after the disaster, but the tale regarding the same (at first originated From wholecloth) has been repeated and retold so often that it has at least begun to be believed as true, and thus given to the papers as bona fide. There being no cargo of any great value in her at the time, the insurance on it was not claimed, and no more than ordinary precautions were taken before the hull insurance was paid.
Why a vessel-owner would make away with a craft that cost $5,000 the year before, for the sake of drawing an insurance of $2,5OO is beyond conjecture.
None of Mr. Waddell’s sons have since died, but all are successful business men at the present time. —Goderich Star
R. G. McCULLOUGH, SUBMARINE DIVER,
Says That He Found Twelve Auger Holes In The Bottom, And Also A Body And Several Tons Of Stone. — ( From the Port Huron Times ):–
The story recently published about the finding of the lost schooner EXPLORER, which was sunk about fifteen years ago in the Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, has revived a great deal of interest that was manifested at the time the vessel was sunk. The statement that Captain Waddell, who was in command, had planned to defraud the insurance companies and also caused the death of the sailors, is credited by some newspapers as being true, while others emphatically stamp it as slander upon a dead man. Captain Waddell was well known in Goderich, and a few years after the EXPLORER was lost, he was drowned. The Goderich Star published a long article denying the story printed in several local papers, and stating that the editor had examined the bottom of the boat and could not find any auger holes, and further that no bodies were found in the hold or cabin by divers. The article in the Star is replied to by R.G. McCulloch, a submarine diver of this city, who examined the boat and claims to have found the auger holes and some of the wooden plugs in the hold, and also the perfect body of a man and the bones and putrid flesh of another; but he does not pretend to say who scuttled the schooner. He writes as follows.
To the Editor of the Port Huron Times.
Sir,- I see by your valuable paper that the Goderich Star denies the fact that the schooner EXPLORER was scuttled and sunk, as published in the local papers. I was one of the divers that worked on the EXPLORER and gave the report to the press concerning the scuttling of that craft, and from personal knowledge know that the EXPLORER was scuttled.
It the Editor of the Star will get the Harbor Master of Goderich, and go on board the EXPLORER and lift up the ‘limber’ boards, the Harbor Master (who thoroughly knows his business) will show the editor of that paper where he can find twelve inch and-a-half holes; eight on the starboard side and four on the port side.
I will further state that the schooner was stripped of all her sails, blocks, rigging, and booms, and the sheet blocks were cut with a cold chisel, and part of the links left on the traveller; and the lamp and compass were taken out of the binnacle box.
The schooner was weighed with ( as near as I can judge without weighing ) fifteen ton of stones, and thirteen lockers in the cabin were also filled with stone. There was one perfect body found on board with a shirt and pair of pants on, and the bones and putrid flesh of another was found on deck, having evidently floated out by the surging of the water while we were working at the wreck. The hatches were spiked down, and the hatch bars on and securely fastened. I also found seven of the plugs in the hold of the vessel that had been used to stop the holes until all was ready. The small door leading from the cabin to the hold of the vessel was also out. The cabin door had been locked and the key left in the lock, but the door was lying on the deck, having been torn off by an anchor or grapnel. I have no hesitation in saying that the schooner was scuttled and then sunk.
Mr. Lewis who claimed to own the schooner, asked me to say nothing about it in Goderich, as, he said, ‘The schooner had been under water for several years; but the name was perfect on the quarter and stern, as follows;
‘ EXPLORER, of CHATHAM,’
Who scuttled the schooner, I do not know, but the facts I have stated can be proved by a dozen witnesses.
Hoping you will publish this, I remain Yours Truly,
R. G. McCulloch, Submarine Diver
Port Huron, August 3rd. 1882
THE ‘TRIBUNE’ ON THE EXPLORER.
The Port Huron Tribune says: — D. S. Gooding is the name of a Chicago Attorney who thinks he has a clear case of libel against the Tribune because we published the Waddell — Explorer affair.
He is cordially invited to wade in and try it. We have the best authority for every statement made in that article and are prepared to back it up at any time. We do not state it as a fact that Waddell scuttled the EXPLORER, but gave the story told by himself and the condition in which the vessel was found. People can draw their own inferences! Another item in the same paper reads thus: Every word of that article about the schooner EXPLORER, recently published in the Saturday ‘Tribune’, is true and can be verified under oath if necessary. Among the witnesses would be found, Capt. H. N. Jex, of this city, Capt. Matthew Watts., R. G. McCulloch and D. Fectau, all of whom were present at the raising of the vessel. Capt. Jex personally assisted in plugging up the twelve auger holes that had been bored in the bottom of the vessel, and his crew spent nearly half a day removing the stone with which she had been filled.
Friday, August 25, 1882
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NOTE : — The EXPLORER, raised in 1882 was lost the following year, Sept. 4, 1883 on Greenough Bank, near Stokes Bay, Bruce Peninsula